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Past simple

Level: beginner

With most verbs, the past tense is formed by adding –ed:

called liked wanted worked

But there are a lot of irregular past tense forms in English. Here are the most common irregular verbs in English, with their past tense forms:

Base form Past tense
be
begin
break
bring
buy
build
choose
come
cost
cut
do
draw
drive
eat
feel
find
get
give
go
have
hear
hold
keep
know
leave
lead
let
lie
lose
make
mean
meet
pay
put
run
say
sell
send
set
sit
speak
spend
stand
take
teach
tell
think
understand
wear
win
write
was/were
began
broke
brought
bought
built
chose
came
cost
cut
did
drew
drove
ate
felt
found
got
gave
went
had
heard
held
kept
knew
left
led
let
lay
lost
made
meant
met
paid
put
ran
said
sold
sent
set
sat
spoke
spent
stood
took
taught
told
thought
understood
wore
won
wrote

We use the past tense to talk about:

  • something that happened once in the past:

I met my wife in 1983.
We went to Spain for our holidays.
They got home very late last night.

  • something that happened several times in the past:

When I was a boy, I walked a mile to school every day.
We swam a lot while we were on holiday.
They always enjoyed visiting their friends.

  • something that was true for some time in the past:

I lived abroad for ten years.
He enjoyed being a student.
She played a lot of tennis when she was younger.

  • we often use expressions with ago with the past simple:

I met my wife a long time ago.

Past simple 1
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Past simple 2
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Past simple questions and negatives

We use did to make questions with the past simple:

Did she play tennis when she was younger?
Did you live abroad?
When did you meet your wife?
Where did you go for your holidays?

But questions with who often don't use did:

Who discovered penicillin?
Who wrote Don Quixote?

Past simple questions 1
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Past simple questions 2
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We use didn't (did not) to make negatives with the past simple:

They didn't go to Spain this year.
We didn't get home until very late last night.
I didn't see you yesterday.
 

Past simple negatives 1
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Past simple negatives 2
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Level: intermediate

Past simple and hypotheses

We can also use the past simple to refer to the present or future in hypotheses (when we imagine something). See these pages:

Comments

Hello
what tense are these
I had a car- past perfect/ simple past
I have a car
I bought a CD that had a famous singer's songs

Hi Samin,

Here are the tenses of those sentences:

  1. past simple (had)
  2. present simple (have)
  3. past simple (bought / had).

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, Would you give the difference in meaning and its (grammatical) usage of "Before and Ago", please! Thank you.

Hi rajeshvr,

Ago is an adverb. It tells us the distance in time from the present moment to another event. When you use ago you need to include a time reference, which can be a number or a description:

It happened 3 years ago.

He died a long time ago.

I saw her not long ago.

 

Before is a flexible word. It can be a preposition, a conjunction or an adverb. When it describes location rather than time it can also be an adjective. We use before to say that an event happened earlier in time than another. Whereas ago relates an action to the present, before simply relates one action to another.. With before we do not have to specify the length of time we are talking about, though we may:

I saw her before you.

I read the book before I watched the film.

I heard of him a long time before I met him.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello

Please I found in tutorial website that the past simple in negative and yes or no questions form would take infinitive without to ( the question is that I don't know why ???since We can say for instance I didn't want "to" bring something from the market and still that is supposed to be past simple form!!!)

So that is shat one of important tutorial websites said for reference:

-We make the negative form with didn’t (did not) + infinitive without ‘to’.

I didn’t like working in a bank.

-Past simple yes/no questions are made from did + subject + infinitive without ‘to’.

Did you like living in Japan?

 

Hello Reema,

I'm afraid I can't comment on an explanation that I haven't seen. I expect that what the website meant was that the negative form of 'I wanted' is 'I didn't want' (not 'I didn't to want').

If you have any doubts, please refer to the explanation on this page -- it is correct.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, you mentioned that "We use the Past Tense to talk about...something that happened once in the past...something that happened several times in the past"

Firstly, to be specific, you mean to say "the simple past tense" instead of just "Past Tense" right? because "Past Tense" can refer to "Past simple tense, Past continuous tense, Past perfect tense or Past perfect continuous tense".

Secondly, out of all the four past tenses (as mentioned above), is it a case where the simple past tense is also known or referred to widely as just the "Past Tense" (that is when a person simply says "the past tense", and assuming no other unique background/context that suggests anything else, we may assume that the person is referring to the simple past tense)?

Hello magnuslin,

As the Past tense page explains, in this grammar's view, there are only two tenses in English -- present and past -- though each has several different forms. On this (Past simple) page, only the past simple is discussed.

I wouldn't assume that someone who says 'past tense' definitely means 'past simple'.

By the way, if you're interested, you can read more about the idea that English has only two tenses in the Wikipedia, where it's explained a bit more.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team 

Hi Kirk,

Actually it is because the title of this article is "Simple Past" and yet the article goes on to say "We use the Past Tense to talk about...something that happened once in the past...something that happened several times in the past", which was what led me to ask whether by the term "Past Tense", are you referring to the Simple Past in this article?

And if so, is it then a case where out of all the four past tenses (e.g. Simple past, past perfect, past continuous and past perfect continuous), only the Simple Past is colloquially referred to most often as just The Past Tense?

Hello Guan Lin,

Yes, this article refers to the past simple (also known as 'simple past').

As far as I know, 'the past tense' can refer to any of the four forms you mention, but I'm not completely sure what the author of this page meant. I'm sorry -- I can't make anything other than guesses about his intentions here.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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